Thursday, April 16, 2015

Madrid

A couple of months ago, Kyle and I finally made it to Madrid, a city that has been on our list since we arrived in Europe almost three years ago.  Madrid not only lived up to our high expectations, but exceeded them.  It's a beautiful and vibrant city that has so much to offer from wonderful art collections, to fabulous parks, grand boulevards and a great foodie scene.  It's just flat out a fun place to be!

Our trip started out a bit rough.  Our flight to Madrid was on Air Berlin via Dusseldorf.  Our flight out of Stuttgart ended up being delayed, so they put us on a flight with a layover in Berlin rather than Dusseldorf, which would put us arriving in Madrid only 45 minutes later than what we had planned...except the flight to Berlin was delayed which put us running through the Berlin airport to catch our flight.  That is never fun! Kyle and I made it to Madrid, but my luggage didn't!  Not a wonderful start to the trip!  Our first evening in Madrid was spent picking up essentials like toothbrushes, shampoo (hotel shampoo makes my hair feel like straw), etc. and a shirt for me to wear the next day.  It still was a pleasant evening, and we went to the top floor of the mega department floor El Corte Inglés for great views of the city.



We started our first full day in Madrid with a free walking tour.  Kyle and I aren't always into guided tours, but in a big city like Madrid where there's so much to see and learn in a short amount of time, a guided tour is a great way to see the highlights and learn the history.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had a great time!

The symbol of Madrid: The Bear and the Strawberry Tree



Beautiful Plaza Mayor

Almudena Cathedral

The buildings of Plaza de la Villa show Madrid's layered history with building examples from the 15th-17th centuries.


Part of the Royal Palace



One of our stops on the walking tour was Restaurante Botin, the earliest established restaurant in the world, founded in 1725.  The artist El Goya worked there as a bus boy, and it was a favorite hang out of Ernest Hemmingway.  Kyle and I got reservations to have dinner there that night!

I like a nicely aged red wine, but I don't know if I would drink this stuff...

The restaurants specialty is suckling pig...I don't like my bacon to look at me like it does here!


After our walking tour, we took a nice walk through the grand city streets and plazas to visit the Prado, which houses one of the world's best collections of art.  No photos were allowed inside of the museum, but some highlights for me were the pieces by El Goya, Las Meninas by Velazquez and the weird and wacky Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.


Enjoying dinner at Botin later that evening


The next day was our fun foodie day!  We started off by leisurely walking around and enjoying more of the city.  We walked through the impressive Plaza de España on our way to see the Tiemplo de Debod, and ancient temple taken from Egypt and reconstructed in Madrid.  The original part of the temple was built in the 2nd century BC!






We stopped in a little bar to eat what is supposed to be one of Madrid's best tortillas.  It was so simple, yet so delicious!  A Spanish tortilla is more like what we would call a frittata or omelette with potato, onion and eggs.  We then headed over to check out the beautiful food in the Mercado de San Miguel, which is a delight for all of the senses!




We wandered around the city a bit more, enjoying the sunshine before stopping in for world famous churros and chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés.  So delicious!




From there we went to stroll through the lovely Retiro Park.









In a glass pavilion in the park, there was a crazy art exhibit set up in an old fashioned camper.  There were all sorts of weird little vignettes set up in the camper, as well as a disturbingly realistic looking sleeping/dead lady.



It looks so realistic...and creepy!



That evening we did an awesome tapas tour!  Kyle and I were the only ones on the tour, and our guide was young and so much fun!  It was just like having a foodie friend that knows exactly where to take us out for a fun night of tapas!  We went to five different tapas bars and had a couple of tapas and drinks in each.  Every single thing we ate was so delicious! After our tour was over we went with our guide/friend to a local bar for sangria.  It was a really cool place!  (Our tour guide has a blog that you should check out called In Seat Number 3).  

Here are some pics of just a few of the tapas we had on our tour.  We were too excited and ate them before Kyle got decent pics, so the pics aren't wonderful, but you get the idea!

Boquerones en Vinagre, ceviche style anchovies from Bodegas Ricla

Albóndigas de Ternera, beef meatballs from Bodegas Ricla

Tinto de verano , a local sangria from Mesón del Champiñon

Gambas al ajillo, shrimps from Huelva in guindilla, garlic, parsley, salt and olive oil from Casa del Abuelo

Padrón, fried peppers from Casa Toni

Chorizo and Lacon from Casa Toni

On our final day in Madrid, we ventured out of the city to the quaint and picturesque town of Toledo. It was an easy half-hour train ride from Madrid, but it seems worlds away from the huge, sprawling city.  Toledo is a medieval town perched up on a hill overlooking a river valley.  The area has been inhabited since the Bronze age and has an incredible history.  It was also part of one of the epic (and fictional :-) routes of Don Quijote through La Mancha.  We visited the 13th century Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, which was an impressive example of Spanish Gothic architecture. It houses countless pieces of art, and was a really beautiful place to see.









We also visited Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, a peaceful 15th century monastery.









We had some flight issues on our way back to Stuttgart as well.  As we found out while we were trying to check in online for our flight the night before we left, our reservation was nowhere to be found.  Our tickets on the way home were on Iberia Airlines (as booked through Opodo, a reputable travel website).  When Kyle called and talked to their customer service, they told him that since we were on a different flight to Madrid than we had originally booked (since we were switched to a different flight because of delays), we showed up in the system as "no-shows" and our return flight was automatically cancelled. To ensure seats on the flight to get home on time, we had to book super expensive last minute tickets.  Two months later, we are still dealing with the two airlines and the travel website trying to figure out how, and by whom, our money should be refunded.  Of course they want to refund us for our original cheap flight, not the super expensive last minute one...grrrr....but I'm not finished with them yet!

Anyways, at least we made it home safely after having a wonderful time in a fabulous city!  Madrid is full of beautiful sites, awesome art and architecture, great food and fun people!  Of course we didn't have enough time to see everything, so we would love to return in the future!  I think Madrid is a city that we would never get tired of visiting!



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